Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florid...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 26, 2022

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At a Glance

  • A car is considered totaled if it will cost more to fix it than it is actually worth
  • If your car is totaled, it will depend on the type of insurance coverage you have as to whether you will be fully compensated for the loss
  • A full auto insurance policy, which includes both collision and comprehensive coverage, is the best bet for coverage that will help if your car is totaled

If you have ever been in a car accident, you were probably worried about your car. Depending on the type of car insurance coverage you have, you may or may not have been covered for the accident. And a lot of people who are involved in collisions wonder, “When is a car considered totaled?”

A car is normally considered to be totaled when it will take more money to make repairs to it than it is actually worth. There are laws about declaring a car a total loss in some states. In other states, it is up to individual insurance companies to make the decision.

It’s a good idea to have the right kind of car insurance to ensure you don’t have to worry about coverage on your vehicle, regardless of the circumstances. You will want to shop around for car insurance and compare insurance quotes from the best car insurance companies around to see who offers the most helpful coverage at the most affordable price.

You can use our free quote tool above to find and compare car insurance rates today and see which companies offer the best deals on coverage.

How do I know if my car is totaled?

If you have been in a car accident and your car suffered extensive damages, you may find that your car is totaled. The final decision depends on a number of things, including your car’s worth, how expensive the repairs would be, and whether your state has laws concerning totaled vehicles.

In some states, like Alabama, a car is automatically considered totaled if the damage done to it is more than 75% of its current value. But no matter where you live, your car could be declared totaled if you are in an accident that does significant enough damage.

Car insurance companies are often the entity that decides whether a car is totaled or considered driveable. Your car insurance company may have its own clear standards on this, so it’s important to read the fine print of your policy to know when your car would be declared totaled.

Insurance companies will often use a totaled car value calculator or a total loss car value calculator to decide how much your car is worth when it comes to compensating you for your loss.

Regardless of what your insurance company offers, you should always do your own research if your car is considered totaled to see how much it is worth. If your insurance company offers you the amount you find or more, then it’s a good idea to accept the payout. But if you find that your insurance company is not close to matching your car’s worth, you can work with your adjuster to correct it. Sometimes, it’s as simple as presenting the right sources to value the car.

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What should I do if my car is totaled?

After your car is totaled, there is a lot you have to do when it comes to getting repairs, filing claims, finding a replacement vehicle, and making other arrangements. But when you are involved in a car accident and find that your car might be totaled, you’ll want to make sure you do the following:

  1. Call your insurance company right away and request to speak with an agent. Tell the agent what happened and ask if there’s anything specific you need to do.
  2. Ask your insurance company to keep in touch with you during their decision-making process. You will want to know whether your car is in need of repairs or whether you are looking for a payout that can hopefully help you purchase a different vehicle.
  3. Do the math to figure out what the actual cash value (ACV) of your car is. This is the payment you should be receiving from your insurance company — minus the deductible.

Make sure that you stay in touch with your insurance company after a car accident. It will feel tedious, but it will also allow you to stay informed and know any decisions your insurance company makes as soon as it makes them. After a total loss, you may want to consider shopping around to find better car insurance rates, as yours may be impacted by your claim.

Is my car automatically totaled when the airbags deploy?

You may have heard that airbag deployment means an automatic total loss, but that is not necessarily true. If your car’s airbags deploy after a car accident, you may still find that your car is worth repairing.

An insurance agent can help you understand how your insurance company assesses the situation to determine if the cost of replacing the airbags and repairing your car would cost more than what your car is actually worth. As long as your car is worth more than it would cost to get all this work done, it will not be considered a total loss.

What insurance coverage should I have for a total loss?

The three best insurance coverages you can have outside of liability when it comes to a totaled car are collision, comprehensive, and GAP insurance.

Collision coverage is the most obvious form of car insurance you would want since most cars that are totaled are because of an accident. Collision coverage will cover you in an accident regardless of fault and will help to reimburse you for the damages.

Comprehensive coverage helps to insure your vehicle when it is stolen, vandalized, or otherwise damaged. This can often be the coverage you use after bad weather did damage to your vehicle. Occasionally, a rough storm can cause enough damage to a car that it would be considered totaled. In this case, comprehensive coverage would be necessary for you to get a proper payout.

Lastly, GAP coverage is something you should consider if your car is new and you’ve financed it. If you recently drove your car off the lot, its value has depreciated. So if your car were declared totaled tomorrow, you would likely get less money back from your insurance company than you owe on your loan. GAP coverage will pay the difference, so you don’t end up upside-down with a vehicle loan.

It can be really overwhelming to think about your car being totaled. And the hope is that you’ll never have to actually deal with such a difficult occurrence. But it’s always a good idea to carry the right coverage so you can feel safe and secure no matter what happens.

Be sure to use our free quote tool below today to find and compare auto insurance quotes from the best companies in your area.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.